Chippewa school board appoints new president

Bednard takes on new role after nearly 15 years

By: Jeremy Selweski | C&G Newspapers | Published January 21, 2015

 Student artwork decorates the meeting room of the Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education on Jan. 12 in honor of National School Board Recognition Month. From left are Secretary Beth Pyden, President Frank Bednard, Vice President Andrew Patzert and Trustee Laura Cardamone.

Student artwork decorates the meeting room of the Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education on Jan. 12 in honor of National School Board Recognition Month. From left are Secretary Beth Pyden, President Frank Bednard, Vice President Andrew Patzert and Trustee Laura Cardamone.

Photo by Jeremy Selweski

CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — A man who has been a familiar face on the Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education for more than 14 years is now getting his first taste of sitting in the center seat.

Frank Bednard, a trustee with the board since 2000, was appointed to serve as board president on Jan. 12. Addressing the audience, Bednard thanked his colleagues for their votes of confidence in giving him the opportunity to lead the board for the next year.

“I was 36 when I first came on to the Board of Education, and I’m now 51,” he said. “I’ve held the secretary, treasurer and vice president (seats) over the years, and the president seat finally came around, so I figured it was time for me to step forward and do my part. … I want to thank everybody for their support, and I look forward to a great year here with the school district.”

The board also re-elected Andrew Patzert as its vice president and George Sobah as its treasurer. Beth Pyden was chosen as the new secretary, replacing Tammy Reynolds, who is no longer a board member after opting not to run for re-election in November. Meanwhile, former President Denise Aquino chose not to seek any officer positions on the board this year due to ongoing health issues.

In addition, new Trustee Laura Cardamone was sworn in to office, replacing Reynolds and taking her seat with the rest of the board. District voters elected Cardamone to a six-year term in November, along with another new board member, Jill DeMuynck Zech. Zech, who replaced former Trustee Ken DeBeaussaert two months ago, is serving a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2016.

In honor of National School Board Recognition Month, there were tributes of various kinds to the board from people all over the district. Chippewa Valley students created more than a dozen pieces of artwork that now adorn the walls and desk of the board’s meeting chambers. A “thank you” video made by students from Cherokee Elementary School was also shown, and three seventh-graders from the Seneca Middle School band played music for the board.

Superintendent Ron Roberts took a few moments to highlight the importance of a good school board to a district’s overall success, citing data from the Center for Public Education as evidence.

“I truly believe that the quality of a school district really does start with your Board of Education,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand their importance, but they really set the tone for your district. When you have a well-functioning Board of Education, that can lead to a well-functioning central office, and I think that filters right through into our school buildings. When we can focus on what we need to focus on, and we can do it as a team, it really makes a difference.”

According to Roberts, Chippewa Valley’s school board has made a positive difference for the district because its members always keep student achievement as their top priority, are fully committed to the job, and maintain a strong connection with the surrounding community. He also cited the board’s willingness to compromise when facing difficult issues.

“When you have seven people, they never agree,” Roberts said. “But this Board of Education is very skilled at working out those disagreements and presenting a united front to the community. And that’s what makes working here … so satisfying: the fact that we work for a team that’s so committed to student achievement and will set aside some of their differences in order to do what’s best for our district as a whole.”

The superintendent added that board members are “not taking big vacations and buying northern cottages” with the “pittance” that they earn serving their community. On the contrary, recent years have largely focused on helping the district navigate through the financial minefield of the recession.

“You can look no further than Chippewa Valley to see what’s right about public education,” Roberts contended. “In spite of (the recession), this Board of Education has dedicated itself not only to sustaining what was good five years ago when the economy turned, but also to improving our school district. We have many initiatives in our district that this board had to commit to, which really does take courage, because there are many demands on these people for how we spend our valuable dollars.”

Aquino was grateful for these comments and for everyone else who took the time to show their appreciation for the board, whether it was vocally, musically or artistically.

“This is the best night of the year for us, not because we’re being appreciated, but because we get to see all this great artwork and all the things that our staff helps our students do,” she said. “And that’s the reason why we’re all here. It’s always very uplifting and fulfilling to see that. … Thank you all for being the community that you are.”

Although the agenda on this evening was slim, the board did have one major item of business to take care of: approving the district’s first amended budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The change involved Chippewa Valley’s projected revenues increasing from $147.4 million to $148.4 million and its projected expenditures increasing from $146.4 million to $147.8 million.

The resulting net increase in expenditures of roughly $400,000 means that this year’s projected budget surplus will decline from $1 million to $600,000. According to Scott Sederlund, assistant superintendent of business and operations for the district, the vast majority of this change reflects the $1.4 million increase in retirement offset funds required by the state of Michigan.

The board also heard an extensive presentation from Scott Pitts, the district’s director of state and federal grants, and members of his staff.

Together, they provided detailed information about what their programs do to help students throughout the district who are economically disadvantaged or who speak English as a second language.

In addition, the board reminded residents that the district is hosting a strategic planning community forum at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Chippewa Valley High School auditorium. The public is invited to attend the forum, which will feature keynote speaker Dr. C. Robert Maxfield, interim dean of Oakland University’s School of Education and Human Services.

The purpose of the strategic planning process is to determine the district’s core beliefs and goals, which will guide its decision making for the next three to five years.